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May / mai 2016
Visits to gardens near Montauroux, Seillans and Fayence, Var

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This was a visit planned to see ‘ordinary’ gardens belonging to members of MGF and the gardening group of Amicale, Fayence. It was coordinated with help from Maureen Greenwood and Terry Knott. Jenny and George Mc Naught very generously allowed us to picnic in their garden (for description, see below) and they and Terry kept us well supplied with water, wine and even cakes and home-grown strawberries.

Zigi and Will Houston’s garden, Seillans
Zigi and Will started to create this lovely, fairly formal garden only 4 years ago on broad terraces full of olives, pines and scrub, including huge brambles which they destroyed with undiluted weed killer. Their soil is mostly clay and the garden is subject to strong mistral winds which have damaged their new palm trees.

The garden is very closely planted, with lots of colour, but it is not a ‘dry’ garden. Although the usual Mediterranean plants were in evidence (perovskia, gaura, cistus, thyme), they were planted in groups to give swathes of colour. Elsewhere, the South African iris Dietes grandiflora thrived on a rocky slope while three Malus ‘Evereste’ lorded it around the boules pitch. Trachelospermum jasminoides was cleverly planted at the top of a stony slope to scramble down it, while wild dog daisies marched along a wall above a rose bed.

Trailing Trachelospermum jasminoides
Roses used as ground cover

Lots of roses were bought from David Austin in the UK and delivered as bare roots plants. For these, holes half a metre wide and deep were dug and the roses then planted in ‘terreau’. With all year round watering, they were looking stunning, particularly since many were planted at eye and nose level to appreciate their beautiful colours and perfumes. Most other plants were bought at the English Garden Centre in Valbonne and again have survived well.

Astrid and Aimar Mostue Johansen’s garden, Caillan
Astrid and Aimar moved to this house in July 2014 but, despite Astrid’s love of gardening, were not able to work on their land until February this year. Since then, miracles have been worked on this smallish garden. Entering it from the house, one steps first onto a raised large wooden deck with views over the garden and olive trees. The deck hosts a lovely blue mosaic table, complemented by blue pots containing geraniums which surround it, while vines and trachelospermum grow over it. Around the stylish pool with its beach and rocks, is a curved Mediterranean bed which leads, through an arch, to a small ornate ‘potager’ with healthy plants laid out in wicker-edged raised beds. Thence one moves through a pergola-to-be and on to a shady corner under oaks where Astrid is experimenting to see what will grow, and then a further Mediterranean bed. Pampas grasses planted along the lane beside the garden will provide movement and privacy.

The potager
Carla, Astrid, June and Rosemary in Astrid’s garden

Jenny and George McNaught’s garden, Tourrettes
This was the most mature garden of the three and, in parts, the most formal in its design (by Jenny). It is a dry garden, although a little water is used in high summer.

From the parking area, one steps up through beds of clipped balls of rosemary, santolina and lavender to the main terrace which has a large central, box-edged bed of agapanthus, flanked by two lines of cypress trees. Side beds hold perovskia and wild gladioli. This in turn leads through a large, shaded, entertaining space fronting the pool, which is backed by a bed of grasses and a screen of yellow stemmed bamboo. Close to the house, is a bed, mostly of euphorbia, planted on a slope under trees. Their grey-green colour provides a sharp contrast to the bright red of Rosa ‘La Sevillana’ on the sunny side of the path. About ten of the La Sevillana roses were planted but some of them have reverted to pink, happily giving a gradation to cool the impact on the eye.

Clipped shrubs and Rosa ‘La Sevillana’
The parterre

To the back of the house, further higher terraces were planted with yellow roses, fruit and specimen trees and a vegetable and soft fruit garden.

Text: June Grindley
Photos: Terry Knott, Jenny McNaught and Rosemary Halford